One of the most rewarding aspects of the Violet by BRICKBETTY business is the amount of women we meet who inspire and encourage all of us. We can learn so much from each other just by taking the time to listen. We got to chat with one of those women whose strength is a motivation to us all. Rachel Brown Coombe was just 3 years old when her mother, Marla, was diagnosed with HR2 metastatic breast cancer. We chatted with Rachel last week and asked her questions about her Mom. We hope Rachel's memories of her Mom provide encouragement and support to all those out there who have been affected by breast cancer. If you knew Marla, we would love to hear from you. If there is anything you want to share, please do so in the comments. Rachel, from the bottom of our hearts, thank you for taking the time to do this.
Your mom was very young when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had just turned 27 actually. In 1994, it was really under heard of that women in their 20s got breast cancer. What advice do you think your mom would give to young women in their late 20s or early 30s who are being diagnosed with breast cancer today?
One thing that I think my mom would tell other women who are going through breast cancer at a young age is that this is a bump in the road. Stay Positive even though it is hard to do right now. Positivity is one of the things she swore by and I believe it helped her get as far as she did! She would also tell people “Show the cancer who the boss is.” I heard her say that a few times during her 13 year battle.
What was the greatest lesson you learned from Marla?
I have a couple great lessons that I learned from my mom. The first one was to never give up! When she found out that the cancer had spread to her lungs, she was just shy of her 5 year remission mark. At that point, she set a goal for herself that she was going to make it to see her 40th birthday. This diagnosis came in 1999 at the Oncologist told her that she probably wouldn’t make it 9 more months. She never went back to that doctor, he was not very positive. Not only did she go on to live 7 more years she passed away 8 months shy of her 40th birthday! She was very close to her goal. That being said, she did get to celebrate my dad's 40th birthday and my brother's high school graduation! The second lesson I learned from her was to not be embarrassed about how you look. I remember asking her how she felt when people would stare at her. My mom had lost all of her hair so she wore a hat most of the time, the drugs made her gain weight, her face was swollen, and she had a scar on her head from where her brain tumor was surgically removed. Physically, the disease had changed her. She would always say, “if people want to look, let them, I am not here to impress them!” It is something that has stuck with me to this day. It has also taught me that you never know what someone is going through so don’t stare or make assumptions about somebody because they are different.
Obviously, breast cancer treatment can be difficult on the human body. What did Marla do to get through those peaks and valleys of treatment? Exercise? Massages? Sauna treatments? Anything specific?
When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer I was only 3, so I am not exactly sure what she did to get through treatment. I do know that when she had to go through chemo when I was older, she swore by peanut M&Ms, she said it helped with the nausea. So much so that she would take a big bag to the treatment facility so that they would have some for the other patients. She continued that even when her treatments where done.
Marla had HR2 metastatic breast cancer, but was negative for the BRCA gene. Are you taking any preventitive measures yourself against breast cancer?
My mom did test negative for the BRCA mutation. As a precaution I did the Myraid genetic test done that tests for the 25 known genes that have been connected to breast cancer. I tested negative for all of those but I am still at an elevated risk because of her diagnosis. I currently do a year MRI along with my yearly physical. Once I am 30 I will alternate every 6 months between a MRI and a Mammogram. I have also looked into the possibility of having a prophylactic mastectomy in the future.
Where did Marla find the most support while going through the breast cancer treatment phase? Was she involved in any groups?
My mom found the most support in our family and friends! She had many people that she was able to lean on. I think that my dad was the rock for her and the company that he worked for was also very supportive. They were in the process of moving us to South Carolina when they found the cancer in her lung. When she could not find a doctor in South Carolina that she liked, my dad's company would fly her back to Illinois every 3 months to see her oncologist. Our family members were also there whenever she needed anything especially in 2005 when we moved back to Illinois. I can’t put into words what everyone meant to her. I remember at the end of her life there was someone at our house daily, whether it be family or friends, to see her and talk to her even if she was not responsive. We had people fly in from all over just to see her. As I am writing this there are tears in my eyes just thinking about how everyone would come together for whatever my family needed! I wish I could name everyone but they will know who they are when they read this!
What is the1 thing you most want other people to know about Marla?
One thing I want people to know about my mom was how strong she was. Not only was she showing cancer who was boss she was also giving her kids as normal as a life as possible. Yes, she was sick sometimes but she tried to never let that get in the way of doing fun things. She always had a positive attitude and gave some of the best advice. Not only did she give me good advice I think anyone that took her advice will agree!